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Solohead Open Day - Farming on Wet Ground

Exceptionally high rainfall over the last five weeks is causing severe problems on farms, causing livestock to be housed and disrupting silage making. This has serious consequences for profitability on farms in 2012. Wet summers are a feature of the Irish climate in four years out of ten, and can cause severe problems on many farms in higher rainfall parts of the country.

Farmers attending a Teagasc Open Day at the Solohead Research Farm in Tipperary today, Thursday, 12 July heard how effective artificial drainage of heavy wet soils can shorten the period it takes for soils to dry out, increase grass production and length of grazing season, facilitate harvesting of silage and application of fertilizer and slurry, and lower the incidence of liver fluke. A key message on the day was the need for proper site investigation using test pits before commencing any drainage works to identify the most appropriate drainage system. This decision depends on whether or not a layer is present (at a workable depth) that will allow the flow of water with relative ease. If such a layer is present putting in a piped drain system at this depth is likely to be effective, if no such layer is found, it is necessary to improve the water carrying capacity of the soil. This involves a disruption technique such as moling, gravel moling or subsoiling in tandem with collector drains.

The Teagasc Heavy Soils programme aims to improve the profitability of dairy farms on heavy soils through the adoption of key technologies, which include high quality pasture management, land improvement strategies, and efficient dairy herd management. The Teagasc Heavy Soils programme was created in partnership with Tipperary Co-op, Kerry Agribusiness, and Dairygold Co-op and includes the research at Solohead Research Farm and work on 7 commercial farms in counties, Kerry, Cork, Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.

Dr Pat Dillon, Head of the Teagasc Animal and Grassland programme said: “Wet soil conditions have been identified as the most important factor limiting the utilization of grazed grass on Irish farms and almost half of agricultural land in Ireland would benefit from reclamation and drainage. Thirty per cent of milk produced in Ireland originates from farms classified as having heavy soils, so managing heavy soils is particularly important for the growth of the dairy sector in Ireland.”

Teagasc researcher, James Humphreys said:”Annual rainfall at Solohead has ranged between 797 mm and 1336 mm in the last ten years and this has had a major impact on grass growth and utilization, the length of the grazing season and profitability. Wet soil conditions have been identified as the most important factor limiting the utilization of grazed grass on Irish farms. There are clear productivity gains to be made by solving the problems associated with wet soil conditions. The challenge is to develop management strategies to increase profitability on wet land. Cost effective artificial drainage will increase herbage production and utilization, extend the grazing season and increase the profitability on farms.”

The Teagasc advisory services have conducted weather clinics with farmers over the last week. Farmers have another opportunity to talk to an adviser about the options for coping with the difficult wet weather at the Solohead Open Day. Teagasc advisory regional manager Donal Mullane said:”Specific advice for individual cases is being provided by advisers to help farmers through the current situation.”

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